Why Do Bad Things Happen? updated for atheists (sort of)

When Moristotle, a newly minted atheist whose perspectives I nonetheless value, read my post Why Bad Things Happen, he almost threw up. He declared it a "fantasy," aspects of which were "utterly repulsive," and the rest "not only not nice at all, nor even adolescent, but simply infantile." Now if we could only get this fellow to say what he really thinks and stop pussyfooting so as to spare someone's feelings, he might amount to something!

Still, I take his concerns to heart. It's not pleasant throwing up because.....well, it just isn't. We all know it. Is there a way to write essentially the same thing in a way that those he represents will find more palatable? After all, he declared a related post of mine "profound." True, he was just being nice, he later pointed out, but at least there was no gag reflex, or at least he overcame it. Bear in mind that I'm under no illusions of "changing" him, nor he I. We trade remarks regularly and use each other's work to refine our respective viewpoints and reasoning skills. You can't do that with most internet atheists (in contrast to the more civil non-evangelist kind). They are such snarling pit bulls and do nothing but hurl insults. You just can't converse with them.

It may not be possible to make this stuff more palatable for a certain type of person. Any discussion of why God tolerates evil must necessarily  link to Adam and Eve, and link to them rather substantially. They simply are that key of a building block. And so you have to overcome the "we are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. Who's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?" syndrome. This is not gonna be easy.

Let's start with some common ground, just like Paul did at the Areopagus.  Moristotle recently trotted out a Greek named Diagoras, who is apparently the world's first recorded atheist. A little quibbling over that in our preceding posts, but I'll concede the point.

Okay. Here goes. Wish me luck.

........................................

Was Diagoras the world’s first atheist? He‘s credited that way. Read up on him and you’ll see he is remembered as Diagoras the Atheist. Isn’t he the fellow who used a wooden statue of Hercules as fuel to cook his turnips?   …….   if Hercules didn’t like it….well, let him do something about it. And how did Diagoras end up an athiest? Wikipedia tells us (2-4-08) "He became an atheist after an [unspecified] incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods"

Why wasn't it punished? Why didn't God fix it? He’s God, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be all-powerful? We hear this all the time from atheists, agnostics and even believers. Why didn’t he solve Diagoras’s problem and stop the man from going atheist?

It’s because he’d never be able to do anything else. He’d be sticking band-aid after band-aid after never-ending band-aid on a system of things that is inherently unjust, even designedly so. Instead, in keeping with his original purpose, he purposes to replace this system of things with one of his own design. Injustice in that system of things will be a memory only.

After all, what is the injustice that caused Diagoras such soul-searching? Only the one that touched him personally! Had he not witnessed hundreds of injustices in his lifetime? To say nothing of ones his society was built upon. We positively slobber over Greeks as cradle of wisdom, birthplace of democracy, mecca of free thinkers, and so forth, yet they enjoyed their privileged status only on the backs of others. That society embraced slavery, for instance, often working slaves to death. They treated women abominably. And weren't they the original pedophiles? The same sexual molestation of children so roundly condemned today was enshrined in respectable Greek society. Are these among the injustices Diagoras was concerned with? Did he even recognize them as injustices? Possibly, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Lets face it, few situations of this system today are win-win. Generally someone pays the price when we win. Hopefully, for politicians and Pollyannas, it is someone we don’t see in another land or another class. But there is somebody most often and we usually don't even know about it. The system is designed that way. Get the sufferer as far away from the privileged one as possible so they don't see the link and declare any such talk mere bleeding heart liberal crying. Don't think, however, that any political party has a handle on the problem. It's inherent with human self-rule. A new system of things is in keeping with the Bible’s premise that human’s weren’t created to be independent of God.

Things might have turned out differently. The Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden account, brief as it is, demonstrates God’s original intent.

Further, God blessed them and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.          Gen 1:28

The very name Eden means pleasure; garden of Eden becomes (when translated into Greek, as in the Septuagint) paradise of pleasure, and “subduing the earth” is code for spreading those conditions earth wide. Had humans, starting with the first pair, remained content to live under God’s direction, life today would be a far cry from what it is today. But almost from the get-go, they balked.

Consider Genesis chapter 3:

Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?

2 At this the woman said to the serpent: “Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat.

3 But as for [eating] of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘you must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.’”

4 At this the serpent said to the woman: “you positively will not die.

5 For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”

6 Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.

Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the "knowing good and bad" of verse five to be a matter of declaring independence. "You don’t need God telling you what is good and what is bad. You can decide such things yourself and thus be “like God.” The serpent even portrays God as having selfish motive, as if trying to stifle the first couple….a sure way to engender discontent. The ploy was successful. Those first humans chose a course of independence, with far-ranging consequences that have only cascaded down to our day.

After a lengthy time interval allowed by God so that all can see the end course of a world run independent of him, he purposes to bring it again under his oversight. This is what Daniel refers to at Dan 2:44

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite...

 
Or Jesus in “the Lord’s Prayer:”

...Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth...     Matt 6:10

Does anybody seriously expect God’s will to be done on earth under the present system? Yet, says the prayer, the time for God’s will to be done is when his Kingdom comes.

Jehovah’s Witnesses well understand that God’s permission of injustice, even evil, is bound up with this trial period of human rule, soon to end. In a sense, the modern-day atheist counterparts of Diagoras have voted for the wrong party. They voted Republicans out of office in favor of Democrats (or vice versa) and now they're incensed that Republicans aren't delivering on their promises! God’s Kingdom is the arrangement that will end injustice. But they continue to vote for human rule. Does anyone think humans will end injustice?

What the upset ones really want is, not so much an end of injustice, but an end to the symptoms of injustice, mostly the ones that affect them personally, just like with Diagoras. But human rule itself is the source of injustice. We’re simply not designed with the ability to “rule” ourselves. Is it “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?" God’s Kingdom will not treat the symptoms of injustice; it will uproot the source.

 

.............................

 

More here and here

*************************

Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

“If They are From […….] You Can be Sure They Will Ask for Money.” Part 1

I accept virtually anyone on FB who sends a friend request. Just a quick scan to see nothing obscene or blatantly self-serving on their profile and they’re in. Whereupon—and this is far more common coming developing lands, they direct message me with a “Hi. How are you?”

This drives me nuts. Facebook doesn’t work that way! People I don’t know think I can conduct a dozen exchanges about nothing per day? I ignore them all, assuming they are scams of some sort or in some way self-serving. 

But I am from Western background. It may be that friends from elsewhere do use Facebook that way—as a platform for individual chats. Either way, I’m not up for it, but I am curious. “Can you shed any light on this?” I asked Emma, born, raised, and who lived many adult years in Africa?

(Ha! There was one sister I friended from South American who sent several ‘Hellos’—all unanswered by me, then “Oops. Sorry. I see you are marry.” Whereupon I did respond with a “Not to worry, Sonya. Nice to have a friend from [wherever it was].” And then back to DM silence. For the most part, I don’t even look at that side of the app.)

In Africa, especially from [country name withheld] - you can be sure they will ask you for money later on,” Emma replied.

Why, in your opinion? Are they 1) scammers who are not Witnesses at all, 2) Witnesses who are opportunists, or 3) just plain genuine Witnesses with a material lack? 

All three and more,” she replied.

Odd she should mention it. There was a supposed brother who appeared out of nowhere for one of our Zoom meetings. His country of origin I forget, but it was Africa. Several made a big fuss over him after the meeting, and a certain older sister, known for hospitality and generosity, exchanged contact information. Sure enough, he soon began asking for money. Some of Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most naive persons in the world.

I’m not shocked at such things, but neither do I play that game. I know there is crushing lack in many places, but I also know there’s no way to distinguish between who is who. I know the branch will strive to keep body and soul together, but only in the most basic manner.

There was a another brother years ago from a U.S. faraway state who moved in to our congregation —he knew one of the local publishers. He was a pleasant enough guy, genuine, but in time he became a real mooch, hitting up one after another for money. Of course, this puts people in an awkward spot, and some recoil almost in horror at the thought. It got around to such an extent that Ray addressed it in a local needs part. Screwy as Ray was (he later tested false positive for anointing and true positive for apostasy) he made a very balanced presentation—that it was just one of myriad foibles human imperfection has stuck us with, that we have to deal with, perhaps firmly, but ought not provoke an overreaction, as we all fall short in many ways.

Emma: A Norwegian sister I know married a lovely African brother and went to pioneer in Africa - Kongo region. She told me that the sisters constantly asked her for money.  If your skin is white and you come from Europe or USA they think you are very rich. In  most African cultures families used to share everything to survive.  They all eat out of one pot of food - so everyone gets a little.  Things have rapidly changed in the last generation. Very few Africans share what they have with others.... becoming selfish.  

So, they really thought the sister was hiding her money somewhere.  They thought her family was sending her money and she was hiding it.  In fact she worked so hard!  They build a little holiday flat with hard earned money and rented it out to visitors to survive.  That was their sole income. …

When she arrived in Africa, she lived without a bathroom - washed in the community faucet in open fashion until her husband built her a private African place to wash. When I met her she told me about her time in Africa.  I immediately had so much respect for her because I knew where she came from and what she went through.  She told me that none of her family understood.  I was the first to understand a rural home in Africa. She really apprecieted that I understood.

I have camped rough in Africa but I will not be able to live with very little amenities like she did for a very long time. I do not blame them for asking... and trying a lot.  But the Western culture is so different... we are shocked. Some can be opportunists - even if they have a lot of money. 

see Part 2:

the bookstore

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Tracing the Universal Court Case

I told my knowledgeable pal that I was trying to trace our ‘universal court case’ explanation for God’s permission of evil. Where and when did that develop? In-house or are there forerunners, even duplicates, elsewhere? He sent me off on a wild goose chase hunting up a certain Great Courses lecture series entitled Philosophy of Religion. He said he had come across a Seventh Day Adventist who said of that course that finally the SDA explanation for evil was validated. The professor included it in one of his options, even with the endorsement that this explanation made the most sense to him but also that it was little known these days. So I reviewed all his long-winded explanations of evil—not his, but those of others that he explores and shoots down one by one before coming to the last—the obscure one that he found the most logically consistent. 

It was all a red-herring! What the professor finally came to was not the universal court case explanation that still, to my knowledge, is found only in Jehovah’s organization. What he finally arrived at was an explanation that took “dualism” into account (none of the others did!) that one good being (God) is responsible for good, but he is not responsible for bad because he has an evil counterpart (the devil) to pin all the blame on. That was what the professor found the most logically consistent, someone to blame the bad on, not the actual explanation as to why God would allow that evil one to exist and make mischief!

This was an eye-opener to me because I had assumed everyone knew about Satan and took him into account when factoring in evil. In fact, none of them do! And so when the prof finally entertains one that does, as though encountering an oasis in a desert of BS, he says, “you know, that makes a certain amount of sense”—even though it falls far short of what any servant of Jehovah learns from Day One. 

Of course, everyone knows about Satan, but he’s apparently been relegated to fairy tale status, just like Adam and Eve, so he doesn’t come up for serious consideration when the “educated” people congregate! It really is so that people educate themselves into foolishness. I have yielded to this myself. Somewhere in my blog I confessed that, since my intended audience will be the type that are not so sure about God, preaching Satan will really send them over the edge, and so I rarely do it. But that’s not to say if you’re speaking of the origin of evil you can ignore it! Sheesh. It’s kind of integral. But the great thinkers do ignore it.

Relegate the Devil to the status of metaphor if you must—same thing for Adam and Eve. That way you can at least play with the metaphor and figure just what is its application. Be like the mathematician who assumes a condition is true just to see where that logic will take him. But don’t just throw it away unless you are determined not to find an answer to your question.

So now if I am to pursue my project, and there’s one other to complete before I get to it, I must have insider access to the really old publications—maybe I can trace the beginnings of the universal court case there. They’re not available to any Tom, Dick, or Harry, because most Tom, Dick, or Harrys are not Witnesses but only want to dig up dirt or find changed beliefs over the years—and beat us over the head with them.

Sometimes I think there should be a disclaimer on all the old stuff specifically directed to such ones: “If you have to go back 100 years to dig up dirt, there can’t be that much dirt to dig.” Preface it all by saying how opposers look a little silly if they harp on ‘flip-flops’ since it is freely admitted that they happen all the time. Use analogies like the watchman peering into the gloom, how sometimes he will call an imaginary approaching ship, how the alternative is the guy who doesn’t call the approaching ship until its bow pinches his toes. Point out that nobody thinks now as they did in 1880. Point out all the times they incorrectly understood things in Bible times. (The trick is not to sanitize the present—it is to desanitize the past.)

Of course, modern-day ‘thinkers’ will call that ‘whataboutism.’ What used to be called ‘keeping things in perspective’ and was universally thought a wise thing to do is now called whataboutism. If we didn’t consider apostates the bogeyman, creating almost a superstitious fear of them, we might be able to handle their salvos better than we do.

At any rate, maybe I should follow the course that I recommended to another—write and ask for access, not like she said—for everyone, but just for me.  The trouble is I fear I may get the same response as my old college housemate did from the government, or actually from me pretending to be the government. 

College students back then were inclined to ridicule the ‘townie’ patriotism of those in the off-campus community, making much of how the peace sign was the “footprint of the American chicken.” Kevin would do this, more good-naturedly than most because he was a townie himself. He came from a tiny town called Madrid, NY (emphasis on the first syllable, not the last, ridiculous though that may sound. Moreover the ‘Ma’ was not pronounced ‘Muh’ like in the Spanish city but like the ‘maaaaa’ of a bleating sheep!). So that was the backdrop—taking the ‘chicken’s’ way out by enrolling in college. At the time there were student deferments from the draft, but everyone else was off to Nam—as though college-educated students alone were important and everyone else might just as well be cannon fodder. 

Amidst that backdrop, I sent my buddy a form letter as though from the government:

“This country has enough (a long check list of college majors followed, and I checked off the major that was his), Kevin! What we need now are soldiers. Enlist now, you chicken!”

So I am afraid that I might get a letter from Bethel: “This organization has enough authors, TrueTom. What we need now is pioneers! Sign up now, you slacker! Pick up that telephone! Sharpen up that pencil! Get off that internet!”

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

The Chart that Would Disprove God

Take a good look at this chart, for it is a serious attempt to prove God doesn’t exist. If he did, the thinking goes, he would have patched up evil long ago.

9D617BCD-7A69-4453-A695-2D712A96A033

Note how the chart assumes God is like a Santa Claus who must shower presents regardless of naughty or nice. Note how the bottom-left two boxes present the point, “Can God make a world in which there is free will and yet ensure that no one will use their free will to the detriment of others?” Note how whoever wrote this chart thinks he is smart for positing a question akin to: “Can God make a mountain he cannot move?” Oh yeah, that’s real brilliant. Gotcha.

Throw back at these yo-yos the dilemma of how the lead runner in any race can never be overtaken, since to do so the pursuing runner would have to close half the distance first, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance. It becomes clear that the second runner can never overtake the first. Then lead these this person to a foot race where exactly that thing happens and watch his brain fry. His ‘critical thinking’ has deceived him.

There are a few other turds masquerading as diamonds in the chart  Each of them is a result of the chartist’s rigid presumption of what God must be like. How many can you find?

Completely absent from the chart is any conception that evil might be temporarily permitted to achieve a certain higher and lasting aim. It is a chart presented from the standpoint of a child who knows what he wants and does not care to know anything else.

Let your finger go down the flow chart until it reaches the box: “Then why is there evil?” Note the three choices supplied along with the chartist’s rash assumption that he has covered all bases. They are:

1) If God is all knowing, he would know what we would do when tested, so there is no need to test us.

Note how this takes all the dignity out of being human. Some people cherish the opportunity to prove their loyalty to a cause greater than they. They will not be satisfied with a test tube result that predicts their loyalty—and with that unpleasantness out of the way, let the good times roll!

2) An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God could and would destroy Satan.

Note the assumption that if he could and would do it, he can and must do it NOW. Again, it is the reasoning of a child who expects presents under the tree on Christmas Day, and not one minute later.

3) Could God have created a universe without these?

This choice leads to the dilemma already mentioned, akin to: ‘Can God make a mountain that he cannot move?’ Maybe these guys can feast on this as ‘wisdom,’ but it doesn’t quite cut it for me.

Does not all of this validate such verses as 1 Corinthians 1:19-20?

For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this system of things? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not get to know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.... Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men.”

The chart that would disprove God assumes he must also be omnipresent (everywhere at once), omnisciencient (knows everything at all times), and “all-good.” Usually the third member of this trinity is ‘omnipotent’ (all-powerful) but in this case the chartist has substituted all-good so he can blame God for whatever isn’t going right.

Simply quote one of those verses in which God says he is going to go down and check out something—such as the complaint made about Sodom.

Then Jehovah said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy.  I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.” (Genesis 18:20-21) 

He wasn’t there. He didn’t know. I love the personification. Not so omnipresent after all, is he? Nor omniscient. The Bible does not present him that way. To be fair, you cannot really blame the chartist for these assumptions. Church teaching consistently paints him this way, even though the Bible does not. If it weren’t for the junk food of church teaching, maybe atheists wouldn’t have strayed into atheism in search of nourishment.

As to the third point, “all-good,” note how the chart assumes God’s role is to bless the doings of a society founded on rebellion against him. Note how it assumes God’s role is to prevent the inevitable bad consequences of such rebellion from occurring. 

Thus, every assumption the chart make about God is wrong. No wonder its conclusions are so cock-eyed. Now, to be sure, those cock-eyed conclusions might remain even if it had begun with accurate assumptions—the pull away from God is strong and more rooted in emotion than in reason. “All his thoughts are: ‘There is no God,’” says Psalm 10:4, about “the wicked man [who] makes no investigation.” (italics mine)

The emotional pull is the urge to kick over the traces—to break free from anyone or anything that would tell you what to do. In their insistence upon pursuing the petty freedoms that this world has to offer, chafing at whatever would seem to restrict them, they end up overlooking the substantial freedoms spirituality offers.

What can you do with people like that? In the case of those who once believed in God and abandoned it for atheism, you could liken them to the fellow who loses millions in the stock market. Undeterred, he celebrates the $10K that he still has left, reasoning about the rest: “They were just paper gains, anyway.”

M. D. Craven—‘Master Driver’ Craven, he used to tell his employer, Greyhound Bus—he had the Banger-to-Boston run for many years, and they would say, “Who gave you that title?” to which he would respond with, “Nobody did—I self-assumed it” (his real first name was Merrill, not Master), whose driving skills fell off precipitously in his older years, and who used to say when his car was on the fritz, “Tom, can I borrow your car?” and whom I just KNEW was going to wrap it around a tree, yet he had been so good to me that even had he said: “Tom, can I borrow your car? I want to wrap it around a tree,” I would have felt obliged to hand him the keys—used to love this verse:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Merrill loved it for the appeal from God to reconcile, with the benefit of relieving heavy matters that might weigh upon one’s conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together,” I can still hear him say, quoting the words from the King James Version of the Bible.

But it is not actually a good rendering of the verse. If you ‘reason’ with God, it will mean that you will take notes. You will not be telling him how to run heaven. It will sort of be like reasoning with Ford about your new Mustang. You will take notes at their owner’s manual that you should run it ‘shiny side up and greasy side down.’ You won’t expect them to be enthralled at how you intend to do it just the reverse.

The New World Translation, which didn’t come upon the scene until the 1960’s, well after M. D. Craven’s hay day, and so he still spoke from the KJV, corrects this faux pas, as do most modern translations. It renders Isaiah 1:18 as: “Let us set matters straight between us.” That’s better. It is the same warm appeal, the same alleviating benefits, but absent any sense that we will be instructing God. He will hear us out, to be sure, but it is not as though he will be benefiting from the pointers we may offer him.

It is like the Zoom prayer the other day to close out a small group meeting; the one offering it was just a little too obvious working in his own narrative. He wove in, as evidence of our stressful Covid-19 times, the comment about lines that stretched from (he named the far-apart streets) as people lined up for free masks. I said to my wife:  “It’s as though he imagines Jehovah saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.  Backed up that far? Wow. Things are really getting tight down there.’”

Alas, the explanation of why God permits suffering involves Adam and Eve. This will make it a non-starter for many people today. Do not let it be so with you. Treat is as a metaphor if you like—that will work for the sake of an examination. Treat it as though it were the cover of a jigsaw puzzle that you assemble for the pure satisfaction of assembling it. Only afterwards do you consider whether the scene is actually something you have come across before.

 

***visit the bookstore:

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

A Modern-Day Voltaire

One might think of Introvigne, the fellow who runs CENSUR and does battle with FECRIS (among others), as though in a great Bond movie, as a modern-day Voltaire. Voltaire (many will know) is from the 17th century, and is considered founder of the Enlightenment. He was a fierce critic of organized religion, particularly the Judeo-Christian variety. He was also firmly deist, that is, he never doubted the existence of God, and he came to be much distressed that his body of work was used as a stepping stone into atheism—to break free of God altogether. His dream was that there be religious tolerance, that all religions should get along peaceably. It never occurred to him to change them internally or to mush them into one incoherent whole. He just wanted them not to wreak violence upon one another. 

Early in his life a dispute with a French aristocrat caused Voltaire to flee to England. While there he noted how there were dozens of religions, many (maybe all) claiming to be the one true path (people took religion more seriously then), yet they all co-existed without rancor. (In his native France, the Roman Catholic Church was torturing those professing other faiths.) It never would have occurred to Voltaire that a faith calling itself the one true faith was doing violence to any other one—that view is a uniquely modern one. They all used to do it in the England Voltaire visited, yet they got along without cutting each other’s throats.

Voltaire’s Letters from England conveys his amazement and delight that here was a country, so different from back home, where people could worship as they pleased without anyone trying to ban them or beat up on them. He sets himself up as a chump interviewing a Quaker, just about as weird a religion as one could envision backed then—they ‘quaked’ when they became filled with spirit. He paints himself as though a devout Catholic thoroughly scandalized by Quaker beliefs, and he gives dialogue with one in which the Quaker ties him in knots, whereupon Voltaire sums up the exchange with an observation of how you just can’t talk sense with a fanatic.

It never occurred to Voltaire that the Quakers should change—he was just delighted that, given their “weirdness,” they could coexist so easily with the rest of society. In short, “intolerance” had nothing to do with doctrines or beliefs within a religion. He took for granted that internally each religion would be sufficiently different from other religions. If they were not, there would not BE separate religions—they would all blend into the same. It didn’t matter to him if Quakers were weird; if you conclude they are, don’t be one, would have been his obvious conclusion. 

Being a strict religion, serious about their beliefs, there would be severe internal strictures for any Quaker doing a 180 and leaving his faith. This was of no concern to Voltaire, who personally had no use for any of the established religions. Whatever strictures a departing Quaker would encounter would be more-or-less human nature: turn your back on previously cherished beliefs and you will of course find yourself on the outside looking in as regards those still holding fast to those beliefs. It only adds “fuel to the fire” that the Christian scriptures can so easily be read that way. It’s the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses today. It’s the same with most of the “new religions” that FECRIS labels as “cults,” as it seeks to homogenize religions, extracting whatever teeth they have making them stand out from others, and mash them all into something common that doesn’t stand for much of anything other than putting a God-smiley-face on humanist endeavors.

Voltaire’s firm deism, his belief in God, stems from what the Jehovah’s Witness organization has called the “Book of Creation.” It stems from the observed design of creation, and from what he called first cause, the utility that created things are put to. He rejected any “book of revelation,” that is, any sacred scriptures from any source that would attempt to explain the creator. But he also famously, after years of soul-searching, declared insoluble the “problem of evil.” There is undeniably a God, and there is undeniably evil. He could not reconcile the two, though he was the foremost thinker and deist of his time.

To say that it is dumb as a prima facie mindset to reject any revelatory information from God might be going too far, but it certainly is self-defeating. Voltaire yearns with all his heart to discern the problem of evil, yet he confines his gaze to where the answer certainly will not be—in the book of creation. There is only so far that book will take you. His aversion is understandable, given the horrendous abuse practices by the religions of his day, but it was still self-defeating as for discerning the problem of evil or any other aspects of God’s personality.

If there is an answer to the “problem of evil,” it will be found in the new religions. Of course, my view is that it will be found specifically within the the tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indeed, the wording may differ, but “Why is there Evil?” has been a staple of each of their basic study guides almost since their founding. Mainstream religions have so homogenized their views, so eager not to be out of step with intellectual or scientific trends, that they have modified their own foundation to the extent that the problem of evil cannot be solved given their revised terms. FECRIS gets around the issue by ignoring it. There is no answer to such questions, they maintain—forget about them. Focus on making the world a better place now. Nevermind arcane spiritual concerns that will distract from how we must, in the words of the Beatles, “come together.”

B2E06BBC-DBF1-45D7-AD1D-6ED5ECC61778

 

….In the greater scheme of things, what really was Voltaire? A brief point of relative light, but also a bridge connecting one train wreck to another.

The train wreck of religious intolerance he battled all his life, and to a significant degree, he won that battle. But in a very short time, even during his lifetime, atheists usurped his work to provide underpinnings of their own rising movement—another train wreck. Voltaire was an initial hero of the French Revolution, but in short order, as inferior atheistic thinkers took over, he was downgraded as too moderate. Many of his own followers (Voltaire himself was dead by then) fell victim to the guillotine themselves when they resisted the fanatical excesses of those atheists.

Meanwhile, the light that he offered was but relative, in that he refused any revelatory look at God, and thus missed out on solving the problem of evil, since that is only solved through such searching. He may even have represented “one step forward, two steps back.” The step forward is to win against intolerance. The step back is to repudiate the means though which God gives explanation of himself AND to smoothe the way for atheism. Maybe even three steps back, for in declaring the issue of evil insoluble after grappling with it the better part of his life, he plants the notion in the educated people that adore him that it actually is. 

So is he required reading for JW members? No. He is an elective. Read him if you will. It will be beneficial if you do. But by no means is he indispensable to having one’s head on straight. Make him the centerpiece of your education, and it all but guarantees you will not have your head on straight. The JW organization will never recommend that members read Voltaire. Nor will they ever disparage him, at least no more than I have done above. They would have members direct their primary focus on what does deliver with regard to life’s more important things.

 

Visit Smashwords bookstore.  Also available at Amazon & other ebook retailers.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Sympathy for ‘Sympathy for the Devil’

“Sympathy for the Devil? No. I don’t like that fellow. He makes a lot of trouble. I’m not listening to no song that has sympathy for the devil.“

That was my sentiment for 50 years. It will still be my sentiment, but not so much, until my grave—which maybe will not arrive anytime soon, and if I play my cards right and the ducks line up, maybe not at all. Funny how you can live life as though the system may end tomorrow, and also as though it may not end before your natural death. Yikes! Cognitive dissonance! I hate that stuff!

Nah—cognitive dissonance is a topic worthy of a pamphlet, perhaps, but no more. It is what used to be called, ‘Coming to grips with the fact that you don’t know everything.’ People used to be able to do that without their heads shorting out—before ‘critical thinking’ became all the rage.

“You will still dislike the song, but ‘not so much’ Tom?” You going warm and fuzzy on the Devil these days? No. I still don’t like him. But somewhere along the road I came to recognize that ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ the Rolling Stones song, is not really about sympathy for the Devil. It is about exposure of him.

For years I refused to listen to the song. For years I slapped it down if it reared up on the radio, and later skipped it over if Pandora served it up. I still will, of course, at least if in anyone’s hearing. “Wow, brothers—great song! Sympathy for the Devil! I love it! Let’s give it a listen—right here at the congregation picnic!”—can I picture myself saying that? No. There is stuff that you tuck out of sight when the respectable people come calling. I always did that with the Keith Richards/Mick Jagger song. It’s a little too bad, because if you like rock music, you really can’t do better than The Rolling Stones. On the other hand, there’s a lot of music—you don’t have to chug down everything that comes down the pipe;

The song exposes the works of the Devil nearly as well as the Bible itself—in fact, better—if we are going for specifics and exclusive focus—that is, not being diluted by anything else. The obscenities of history—the Devil’s behind them all. He’s pulling the strings.

A fellow with the handle “Apollyon911” says of the song, that Satan is “implicating humanity for the evil they have committed” and “expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate”—Hitler’s reign, murder of the czar, murder of the Kennedy’s. “He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’...just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive...to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).”

What is the polar opposite circumstance that triggered for me memories of this song? It was this verse from Isaiah and a subsequent video included in the mid-week JW meetings during June 2020–a video on highlighting God’s name in the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. “I am Jehovah. That is my name,” says Isaiah 42:8 (NWT). But the King James Version, and the majority of translations, say, “I am the LORD. That is my name.” How can translators be so dense? “The LORD” is a name? What’s with the all-caps?

You don’t translate the tetragrammaton as “The LORD.” The first is clearly a distinctive name—the name God gives himself—a name that makes clear his power to transform: “He causes to become.” The second is no more than a title, gussied up with all-caps, but clearly a title. Sometimes I call people’s attention to Psalm 110:1 to expose this idiocy: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a tool for your feet.’” Who is talking to who? Why is one Lord all caps and the other not? There is a Charlton Heston movie—I think it is ‘The Ten Commandments’—in which the Israelites are distressed early on because “We don’t even know our God’s name.” Later on, they are as happy as pigs in mud, for they have learned it: it is ‘The LORD’—how much sense does that make?

Even Mick Jagger knows better. “Pleased to meet you—hope you guess my name,” his devil says—and later in the song he gives his name! It is not ‘The DEVIL.”—it is ‘Lucifer!’ Now, as it turns out, ‘Lucifer’ is not a name either; it is a translation of the Hebrew word “hehlel’ and means “shining one.” But the intent is there—Jagger has his head screwed on straight. He knows that if you say Satan has a name, you don’t tell people it is SATAN. And if God has a name, you don’t say it is The LORD. He has put his name in scripture nearly 7,000 times. You don’t think he might be a little peeved that churchmen paper it over, essentially taking it out? Wouldn’t you—if you wrote the most beautiful letter that people sighed in delight over and praised it for its beauty—after crossing out your name, as though it were a putrid thing?

Richards and Jagger are more on to matters of truth than they know. Sign them up for the Kingdom Hall! Of course, they’ll have to clean up their acts first. They can’t quite carry on the way they do, can they? But having declared a “been there, done that—time to move on,” let them do one of the ‘original songs.’ Why—with their background, let them even do two! Seriously. Prince did this—cleaned up his act—whereupon they let him do an original song. Well—they didn’t, actually, they slapped his hand when he tried to rework their own—but they would have today. I wrote up a nice chapter on Prince. It heads the book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ and is even in the free preview section. You don’t think that I would do the same for Mick and Keith if only they would behave a bit more?

These guys are on to something with their ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ even if they don’t nail every little detail. They do better than Apollyon911–he has a little too much ‘churchiness’ in him. The reason I had to quote excerpts from him and not the entirety is that he screws it up in part—whereas the Stone’s song I can let stand untouched. Apollyon says in full:

While Satan is clearly implicating humanity for the evil they have committed, he is not absolving himself. He expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate (not realizing, until it was too late, that Christ’s Crucifixion – and Resurrection, were all part of God’s Plan).

He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’. This does not simply mean he is sophisticated. He does not deny his evil but, just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive (and perhaps, in the case of humans, to deny the evil they commit). He wants to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).

Satan or, as he prefers to be called, Lucifer, his pre-Fall name, is also warning mankind to treat him with respect or he will destroy us. As Martin Luther (the Reformer) noted: ‘Satan cannot bear to be mocked’.

Satan is not denying he is the author of evil. He is merely implicating mankind and also emphasizing his power.

Satan, the Devil, is the Father of Lies and this is implied when he talks about ‘lay[ing] your soul to waste’. Satan does not have full authority over mankind. Only what is allowed by God (his Creator). But, Satan wants us to believe he has all power.

Well, maybe it’s not so bad. But isn’t it a little too glib on how things like the Holocaust is “part of God’s Plan?” (capitalized, no less, though it includes the Holocaust!) It reminds me of the time I passed the church billboard that read “‘Don’t Worry, I’m in Charge’—God” Two days later planes flew into the twin towers in New York City, and I began to wonder if that stupid sign was still there. I returned to read the modified version: “God Bless America.” Had the priest swapped the letters at 3 AM, hoping no one would see him? Even the new didn’t fit. Would you have carried on about God’s blessing in the big city at the time?

What Apollyon downplays is that Satan, not God, is described as the “ruler of this system of this world.” Satan is the one who is “blinding the minds of the unbelievers.” Satan is the one who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth”—that covers a lot of territory!—so it seems that Apollyon might expound at least a little on how Satan has managed to hijack the world God created. He doesn’t do this because he doesn’t know—all he can do is offer up some muddled alteration: “‘Don’t worry (much), I’m in charge, even if it seems I am sleeping at the switch’—God.” No. It won’t do. Satan is the “ruler of this world,” says the Bible repeatedly. (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Revelation 12:9)

Jagger and Richards nail it, but they don’t go far enough. Jesus has come to “break up the works of the Devil,” 1 John 3:8 says. The first thing you do in breaking up the works of the Devil is to expose them. If they went far enough they would come to the indictment of Babylon the Great, the party identified by Jehovah’s Witnesses as “the world empire of false religion.” “Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) Of all those? Yes, for it is not just the acts of commission we speak of, but it is far more for the acts of omission. Had religion trained its members to be peaceable, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, they would have held their ground when the king tried enlist them in his latest war; they would have “paid Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God”—they would have told Hitler to take a hike, as Jehovah’s Witnesses in Axis lands did. That Babylon the Great has been so negligent is why it can be fingered for the blood of all.

The Daily Text under consideration for Friday, June 26, was John 16:2. “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.​.” The commentary included: “How ironic that in committing such evil crimes as murder, religious fanatics violate the very laws of the One whom they claim to worship! Clearly, their consciences are treacherous guides! How can we prevent our conscience from becoming ineffective? The laws and principles contained in God’s Word are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Therefore, by diligently studying the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying it in our lives, we can train our conscience to be more sensitive to God’s thinking, and it can thus serve as a reliable guide.”

We hear the remark all the time that so and so will be guided by his or her conscience—and it sounds good, it plays well—how can anyone go wrong if he listens to his conscience? But as history demonstrates time and time again, the local king and the prevailing mindset is more than a match for any conscience. That conscience must be trained by God’s thinking—otherwise it will be trained by Satan’s. We ought not be as “children, tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14) It requires training in God’s thinking to stand firm. Had religion not so quickly bent over for the sake of anything claiming to be “science,” it might still be able to draw upon Genesis as a credible source to explain some of the deeper questions that science cannot touch. Had religion held fast to its core, it would not find itself acquiescing, to various degrees,—sometimes only partially, and sometimes completely—to the humanist and Satanic lie that humans are capable of self-rule.

Mick and Keith are on to it—they even nail the too-frequent reversal of roles, with their, “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints”—but they still haven’t gone far enough. They even nail the “refinement” of those under Satan’s influence, who may very well be men “of wealth and taste”—but they still don’t go far enough. They still deserve an honorable mention, not me burning their record. I’ll burn it anyway, for—let’s face it—‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is not really a kingdom song, is it? But they deserve better. Ah, well—there are greater injustices. There are bigger fish to fry. I’ll stick with the other songs on the Martin Scorsese movie ‘Shine a Light’—which is the Stones in concert—and I’ll reaffirm my favorite scene: that of Buddy Guy standing like a mountain while two of the scrawny Stones buzz around him like gnats, blown away by his fierce guitar work.

 

Please allow me to introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

I've been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg

When I saw it was a time for a change

Killed the czar and his ministers

Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank

Held a general's rank

When the blitzkrieg raged

And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

Ah, what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee

While your kings and queens

Fought for ten decades

For the gods they made

I shouted out

Who killed the Kennedys?

When after all

It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

And I laid traps for troubadours

Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's confusing you

Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah

Just as every cop is a criminal

And all the sinners saints

As heads is tails

Just call me Lucifer

'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me

Have some courtesy

Have some sympathy, and some taste

Use all your well-learned politesse

Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down

Oh yeah, get on down

Oh yeah

Oh yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name

Tell me honey, can ya guess my name

Tell me baby, what's my name

I tell you one time, you're to blame

Oh, right

What's my name

Tell me, baby, what's my name

Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

This Has to Be One of the Stupidest Charts I Have Ever Seen — On Evil and Suffering

Take a good look at this chart, for it is a serious attempt to prove God doesn’t exist. If he did, the thinking goes, he would have patched up evil long ago.

9D617BCD-7A69-4453-A695-2D712A96A033

Note how the chart assumes God is like a Santa Claus who must shower presents regardless of naughty or nice. Note how the bottom-left two boxes present the point, “Can God make a world in which there is free will and yet ensure that no one will use their free will to the detriment of others?” Note how whoever wrote this chart thinks he is smart for positing a question akin to: “Can God make a mountain he cannot move?” He (she) thinks he has scored a ‘gotcha.’

Throw back at these yo-yos  the dilemma of how the lead runner in any race can never be overtaken, since to do so the pursuing runner would have to close half the distance first, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance. It becomes clear that the second runner cannot overtake the first. Then lead these this person to a foot race where exactly that thing happens and watch his brain fry.

There are a few other turds masquerading as diamonds in the chart  Each of them is a result of the chartist’s rigid presumption of what God must be like. How many can you find?

Completely absent from the chart is any conception that evil might be temporarily permitted to achieve a certain higher and lasting aim. It is a chart presented from the standpoint of a child—who knows what he wants and does not care to know anything else.

Let your finger go down the flow chart until it reaches the box: “Then why is there evil?” Note the three choices supplied and the chartist’s rash assumption that he has covered all bases. They are:

1) If God is all knowing, he would know what we would do when tested, so there is no need to test us.

Note how this takes all the dignity out of being human. Some people cherish the opportunity to prove their loyalty to a cause greater than they. They will not be satisfied with a test tube result that predicts their loyalty, and so in that event, let the good times roll!

2) An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God could and would destroy Satan.

Note the assumption that if he could and would do it, he can and must do it NOW. Again, it is the reasoning of a child who expects presents under the tree on Christmas Day, and not one minute later.

3) Could God have created a universe without these?

This choice leads to the dilemma already mentioned, akin to: ‘Can God make a mountain that he cannot move?’ Maybe these guys can feast on this as ‘wisdom,’ but it doesn’t quite cut it for me.

Does not all of this validate such verses as 1 Corinthians 1:19-20?

For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this system of things? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not get to know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.... Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men.”

Where to go to find an explanation for why God would permit evil?

Here is one I wrote for Bible-believersIt is notable for being a true story—it actually happened—and it was a hoot while it was happening, let me tell you—even though it gave me a splitting headache.

Here is one I wrote for agnostics and atheistsThis one was written because Moristotle gagged on the first. In it I seek to present the Bible’s creation account as a metaphor, its meaning to be discerned without regard to whether it really happened or not.

Here is one off JW.org, presented as a series of online lessons:

Note that all of them involve Adam and Eve. This will make it a non-starter for many people today. Do not let it be so with you. Treat it as though it were the cover of a jigsaw puzzle that you assemble for the pure satisfaction of assembling it. Only afterwards do you consider whether the scene actually exists or not.

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

The Meeting That Was Not Cancelled and the Canaanites That Were

All day long I had expected the meeting to be canceled due to snow and plunging temps. When the snow did not come, I texted the elder of my service meeting group: “I can’t believe you guys aren’t cancelling the meeting! It’s getting cold tonight, you know.” He replied that he was just a lowly peon and not the one who would make the call. Not good enough. “If I shiver tonight, it’s on you!” I shot back.

But I’m glad it was not cancelled. (It used to be that even an avalanche would not do the trick) The video about communication in marrage was featured, and my wife gave me looks that suggested that she hoped I would benefit from it. After the meeting—maybe the other brothers DO have it all together in that regard—I approached two of them only to overhear. “Well, he WAS watching the ballgame.”

I even got two comments in of my own. About that verse that Jesus, coming into Jerusalem: “and he would not let anyone carry a utensil through the temple” (Mark 11:16)—it was a massive structure and people would take shortcuts through its courtyards, as you might take a shortcut through the mall, with worship of God the farthest thing from your mind—drop by Herschel’s to pick up coffee and bagels, cut through the courtyard heading home. Jesus wouldn’t let them do it, and I likened it to how in the Kingdom Hall you ought to get your act together spiritually and not spend an overabundance of time chatting about mundane stuff.

The other was about the Amorites, the original occupants of the ”promised land“—promised to Abraham’s descendants after 400 years had passed  (Genesis 15:13-16) The Amorites were bad news—unsavory practices as in Leviticus 18 being bedrock to their society—and God allowed 400 years for them to get their act together, even telling offspring of Abraham: “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for it is by all these things that the nations that I am driving out from before you have made themselves unclean...and I will bring punishment on it for its error, and the land will vomit its inhabitants out...you yourselves must keep my statutes and my judicial decisions, and you must not do any of these detestable things.” (18:24-26)

Clearing the land of them, like felling trees, was hardly non-violent, but somehow those verses softens the blow. Jehovah is the Giver of Life, after all, and he does provide an owner’s manual. Clearing out the Canaanites is an exception to ordinary m.o. Once God allows human governments to exist, he pretty gives them free reign, but it is not for nothing that the Bible likens them to wild beasts. 

He allows them to exist because virtually any human government is better than anarchy. But they are not his idea. To referee them would suggest that they are. Sometimes I read Matthew 24:14 and explain that the end that will come is not that of the earth, for it did nothing wrong. It is the end of a system of 200 eternally squabbling nations pushing at each other—surely that was not his idea. But he lets it remain. It beats the alternative. It is a stopgap until “thy kingdom comes.”

Can it do things that are murderous? (someone had asked about that—why is it considered murder when you kill someone but not when governments do?) Well, sure—but the entire arrangement is murderous, a rebellion against God. Even though it is a best-case scenario of that rebellion, it is still murderous. God doesn’t get in there and mediate every little thing—it’s not his arrangement and he interferes hardly at all—but he did with the Canaanites and the 400 years heads-up.

Granted, it’s not everything. It doesn’t quite cover the little children. But I used to explain that when children die today due to parental neglect, people don’t blame God—they blame the parents. Same here—it was for parents to train their children and they neglected to do it. Of course, today people blame God for everything, so the above line doesn’t wash as it once did. 

I wrote a post long ago about why God permits suffering, and an atheist I would swap comments with couldn’t stand it. It hadn’t been written with him in mind. It had been full of appeals to the scriptures, none of which he accepted. So I began to wonder if it couldn’t be repackaged in a way that would appeal to an atheist. I rearranged everything, squashed some ideas, elevated others, and came up with the following. It is more or less relevant here. How does it sound?

The NY driving instructor—of those refresher courses you take so as to get 10% off auto insurance—asked how many in his class thought driving was a right and how many thought it was a privilege. Some thought one, some the other. The answer is that it is a privilege—screw it up and they’ll take it away. Same with Jehovah, the Giver of life

Human governments take life away. They are not the giver of it, though. They abuse their authority. They’ll pay. But their entire existence is an abuse of authority, so when it comes to their killing people—throw it on the stack.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Stephen Fry Runs Afoul of the Blasphemy Law

In 2015, the Irish comedian Stephen Fry abruptly became quite serious on TV. He charged: “Why should I respect a mean-spirited, capricious, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?” His words did not sit well with a certain person who reported him to the police. Fry discovered that he had run afoul of a blasphemy law that he had not even known existed. It was as though he was an extremist himself, nabbed for embarrassing the church people. The Irish Defamation Act would penalize any person who publishes or utters blasphemous material, and Fry was therefore investigated.12

What would Fry say to God face-to-face if he had the chance? a show host asked him on television. He answered: “I’d say ‘Bone cancer in children, what’s that about?’ How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil … Because the god who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”

Perhaps the Russian Orthodox Church can answer his complaint. Jehovah’s Witnesses can in a heartbeat. It is even a chapter of their basic study book, What Can the Bible Teach Us, entitled Why So Much Suffering? an exploration of verses that effectively reason upon and answer the question. Through their unparalleled public ministry, Jehovah’s Witnesses make every effort to answer Fry’s grievance using the Bible, for surely it has that answer. Dominant churches jealous of their own turf try to run the Witnesses off the road so that they can answer it their way: with defamation laws when ‘God works in mysterious ways’ fails to satisfy. It is well that Russian tort lawyers, if they exist, do not understand scripture, for surely it is religious malpractice to interfere with the quest for the answers as to why there is suffering.

Nonetheless, the learned men have not figured it out, is the gist of ‘Octavius’, so what chance is there that an idiot will? ‘You see,’ Caecilius explains from the 2nd century, but he might just as well be speaking today, “all things in human affairs are doubtful, uncertain, and unsettled.” So it is to be understood that if “some, from the weariness of thoroughly investigating truth, should rashly succumb to any sort of opinion rather than persevere in exploring it with persistent diligence.” He represents those who have done “persistent diligence.” His uneducated Christian opponents do not.13 He later speaks with admiration of a certain philosopher who, “the longer his research continued, the obscurer the truth became to him.” That being so, “in my opinion also, things which are uncertain ought to be left as they are. Nor, while so many and so great men are deliberating, should we rashly and boldly give an opinion in another direction, lest either a childish superstition should be introduced.”14

The reason the great men cannot figure it out is that their wisdom has led them to make a priori assumptions that serve to screen out the true answer when it is presented to them. The ones unindoctrinated need not grapple with these red herrings—frequently they are unaware of them. It really is true that the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes and that he therefore simply ignores it, giving very clear answers only to whomever is willing to extricate themselves from that quagmire.15

This explains why Witnesses of Jehovah can barely contain themselves. Fry cries out the question of the ages. There is scarcely a question more important. The great men have either argued in circles or given up. Yet his question should be answered. Jehovah’s Witnesses have really put themselves out—they have fairly turned their lives upside down—to bring that answer to him, only to be blocked by ‘respectable’ religion. It is not a matter of snatching away church members; let them claim him if they can answer his question. Unfortunately, they cannot, and they will not. They have boxed themselves in with pre-existing notions and unreasonable doctrines. So they don’t try. They take cover instead behind defamation laws. Indeed, several of their doctrines would negate the answer to Fry’s question, though biblically the answer be plain as day.

For example, it is common, upon the death of a young child, for a member of the clergy to explain it with the analogy of how God is picking flowers. It goes something like this: God has a garden; he grows pretty flowers, absolutely the best. But he needs one more. There’s one spot that’s just not right. Ah! The missing ingredient is your sole flower. He’ll pick it. Surely, you’ll be happy. What’s that? You’re not? Who would ever think such an analogy as ‘picking flowers’ would be comforting? It is monstrous. No wonder people go atheist. Take away the most precious thing a person has simply because you have an opening and expect him to be comforted over that?

The ‘picking flowers’ illustration is nowhere found in the Bible. But, just once, the Bible uses an illustration parallel in all respects except the moral, which isexactly opposite from the flower illustration! It takes place after King David, captivated over Uriah’s wife, takes her as his own, impregnates her, and silences her husband by having him killed. The passage reads:

“The LORD sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him, he said: “Tell me how you judge this case: In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers. But the poor man had nothing at all except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children. Of what little he had she ate; from his own cup she drank; in his bosom she slept; she was like a daughter to him. Now, a visitor came to the rich man, but he spared his own flocks and herds to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him: he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David grew very angry with that man and said to Nathan: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves death! He shall make fourfold restitution for the lamb because he has done this and was unsparing. Then Nathan said to David: ‘You are the man!’”16

Now, this analogy is just! The man is not expected to be comforted that the king stole his lamb to impress his visitor. Anyone who’s ever recoiled in disgust at the ‘picking flowers’ analogy is reacting exactly as the Bible says he should! It is the clergyman who is advocating the obscene. The flower picker is not to be praised. He deserves death! Having followed the prophet Nathan’s logic, the atheists take the moral high road in this instance and kill God! The condemnation of religion at Revelation 18:24: “In her was found the blood of…all the ones who have been slaughtered on the earth,” is not due to her war-stoking record alone. It is not just due to her acts of commission; it is also due to her acts of omission. Such teachers swap Bible truth for junk food, and spiritually starved people forage on evolution and atheism for nourishment.

Since the illustration is slanderous toward God and not found in the Bible, why do so many clergy members use it? The answer is that they have bought into unscriptural and unreasonable doctrines that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. You make a god-awful mess trying to escape from these corners. The unscriptural doctrine here is: ‘When we die we don’t really die.’ That is, there is some component of us, usually called the soul, that lives on. It is immortal. Have you been good? Then death is your friend. You get promoted to heaven, and how can anyone not be happy to see good people promoted? It’s a win-win! The trouble is, people don’t behave as though it’s a win-win. People mourn at funerals, they don’t rejoice. They take a long time to readjust. Some never readjust to the death of their child; children are not supposed to die before the parent. Death is not natural. It is not a friend, as most religions would have us believe. It is an enemy.17

Returning to Fry’s complaint, note who takes the hit for religious negligence. It is God! Fry rails against God, not clergy persons and not religion! He should rail against the latter, for it is they that fail in their job to explain God. It should not be God who takes the hit. Fry simply assumes—what reasonable person would not?—that if there is an answer to a spiritual question, the self-proclaimed experts will have it. That they do not must mean that an answer does not exist. It does not occur to him that the experts are themselves misled, or in some cases even frauds. God’s reputation suffers. Even beyond addressing Fry’s righteous gripe, Jehovah’s Witnesses ardently want to defend God; after all, that is the function of a witness: to defend one who is accused.

It is a stretch, but perhaps Fry will one day come across Jehovah’s Witnesses and be puzzled at finding that they are in Russia a ‘totalitarian sect.’ It is too bad for him that they are so maligned. So fundamental are his questions of God and suffering that even if the repugnant word ‘totalitarian’ was true, he might decide to rethink his objection to it, for it is not as though anyone else in the field of religion has offered anything to satisfy his spiritual thirst. Slandering good people with charges of totalitarianism does not always work. Sometimes the contrast between the accusations and what people can see right before their eyes is too great, and people are drawn to what they might not otherwise have noticed. For some the best motivation to do something is to be told that they cannot. Might Fry be one of those people?

His words were reported to the police by “a member of the public, who asked not to be identified,” and who later explained that he (this is too much—it really is) “had not personally been offended by Fry’s comments—I added that I simply believed that the comments made by Fry were criminal blasphemy and that I was doing my civic duty by reporting a crime.” If the incident mirrors the incidents of many countries, the “member of the public” was an infuriated clergyman, maybe even Dvorkin himself, who was personally offended and therefore tried to arrest the one who had insulted him and his profession. In the end, whoever it was did not succeed. Fry was not charged. It was decided to let the law slide because “no one was hurt.”

Sure, go ahead and slap down Fry, if you must. But also address his complaint. Had his complaint even once been addressed, he might not have launched his TV salvo to begin with. Few pay any attention to the Bible’s explanation of suffering because it is Jehovah’s Witnesses that offer it. As with most things, it is not what is said that is important. It is who says it. People look to a respectable source to answer such questions, for surely answers should come from someone trained in academia, they assume. “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the open squares she raises her voice,” says the proverb. ‘Nonsense!’ the world’s movers and shakers respond. ‘It cries aloud in the university campuses and quadrangles. Only ignoramuses are found on the street.’18

How a religion can be considered a respectable source while coming up empty-handed on the fundamental questions of life is a question for others to ponder. But popular religion will ever be a reflection of what people honor most, and such fundamental questions, while they may appear on the list of concerns, do not rank as highly as does fitting in with the world’s overall aims and thereby enjoying respectability.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, who, at significant expense and inconvenience, have put themselves out to answer questions like Fry’s, should not be impeded. Let’s face it—one builds up some ‘street cred’ through such an unpaid public ministry. There is nothing in it for them. Sure, it can be spun in a derisive manner by persons intent on that aim: that they have a ‘need’ to validate themselves or a ‘need’ to be right. But it is better to take it at face value: as doing a good deed. Witnesses understand kingdom preaching as a Christian duty dictated by love of God, for he is the one who gets slammed—and for neighbor, for they are the ones who suffer for it. If you have knowledge, you don’t just sit on it. How loving would that be? You light the lamp and put it on a lampstand.

From the ebook Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

A Developing World at the Mercy of Rationalism

At first, following the financial markets crash of 2008, it appeared that the countries suffering the most would be the “guilty” countries: the ones whose banks invented the super leveraged credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations—the ones whose governments and citizens were head over heels in debt—the ones whose people had replaced the Bible with Consumer Reports. “Responsible” countries, those operating a surplus, whose citizens were frugal, such as China, Japan, and Germany, would emerge relatively unscathed. Ah, but it was not to be! The latter countries have suffered as much or more. Their strong balance sheet comes from exports, and now who remains to buy their goods?

But the really innocent countries, countries of the developing world, fare the worst by far. There, the downturn doesn’t mean tarnished golden years. It means lives lost. Seldom are cause and effect linked so clearly. Most often there is sufficient disconnect so that the connivers on top can remain oblivious to the havoc they wreak below. But not this time.

Economist this week considers the plight of Africa, (The Toxins Trickle Downward, March 14, 2009) where in recent years, millions have inched their way above the poverty line, only to be shoved firmly beneath it again. Such countries are impacted in three ways: 1) credit market are closed to them, as they are riskier borrowers, and financial aid from wealthier countries wither, 2) commodity prices have collapsed, and commodities are usually their primary exports, and 3) remittances from citizens working abroad have dried up. The World Bank reckons these three factors will account for 200,000 - 400,000 lives lost, all children.

It is rare that the failure of human rule is shown in such stark relief, with consequences so directly traceable. How damnnable that people nonetheless prefer it to God’s rulership as outlined in the Bible, as advertised by his Witnesses, and as practiced by the Christian organization. Here is an excerpt from someone who has left God—our God, no less, Jehovah, to embrace atheism. He gushes effusively about his new “rational worldview:”

“Rationalism for me means a life of pure freedom...But this means that this life that you’re living now is the most precious thing you’ll ever have....Because there is no Big Daddy to appease or suck up to, or be afraid of, you should be nice to people because it’s nice! You should treat people like you want to be treated! You should not steal or murder because it hurts people, and hurting people is wrong. Always. No one needs a god to tell them this...

“Being a rationalist...if you say something irrational or realize the error in your own thoughts, a red flag immediately raises....rationalism is a worldview with no drawbacks, and only positives. It encourages honesty and truth...It promotes interest in the common good...”

How lofty and soaring the words sound! How much rubbish they are in reality! As the example of developing countries shows, people use their “pure freedom,” to grind others into the dirt, and not to “treat people like you want to be treated!” (an exclamation mark, no less—oh, the joys of rationalism!) They are not “nice to people.” They “hurt people,” two to four hundred thousand of them, even though “hurting people is wrong.” Plainly, we do need a “big Daddy to appease” and a “god to tell” us how to live.

If you had had a son or daughter high up in the banking world, who was devising the complex financial instruments that would ultimately ruin us all, you would have carried on about how well junior was doing for himself, how respected he was in the business world, and so forth. Even experts in the field had not a clue they were playing with dynamite; if they had, they would have cashed out their investments before the markets plunged.

The fact is that humans were not designed to rule themselves. It’s an ability they do not have. Whether through greed, ignorance, pride, or some mix of the three, the record of human rule aptly illustrates Jeremiah’s words: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”   (Jeremiah 10:23)

Today, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses govern its affairs in accord with Bible principles, which provides a hopeful foregleam of life under God’s kingdom rule. It is well known that racial and tribal divisions—the ones tearing apart the world—utterly fail to divide Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is well known that when natural disaster strikes, teams of volunteers promptly care for their own, rebuilding homes while governments are yet ascertaining the damage. It’s well known that Kingdom Halls in the developing world are often the most impressive building in town, far more than what the locals could afford on their own—due to a sharing of resources and building talent from wealthier countries.

All this provided through an organization which counsels, which directs, which disciplines its own, which insists on members living by Bible principles. Malcontents, such as one may find online, launch blistering attacks at this, for it seems to impede their freedom, and this they will not tolerate, even in trivial matters. But Witnesses’s “economy” works to the good of developing countries, rather than trampling them underfoot. (March 2009)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

00

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Two Darwin Things That Might Have Changed History

Two spiritual events can be traced in the life of Charles Darwin. Had those events turned out differently, one wonders what effect it might have had on his scientific contributions.

The first came with the death of his favorite child, his daughter Annie. At age 10, the child contracted scarlet fever. She agonized for six weeks before dying. Also a casualty was Darwin’s faith in a beneficent Creator. The book Evolution: Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer, tells us that Darwin “lost faith in angels.” That is an odd expression. Why would it be used? They probably told him that God was picking flowers.

Is there any analogy more slanderous to God than the one in which God is picking flowers? Up there in heaven he has the most beautiful garden imaginable. But it is not enough! He is always on the watch for pretty flowers, the very best, and if he spots one in your garden, he helps himself, even though it may be your only one. Yes, he needs more angels, and if your child is the most pure, the most beautiful, happy, innocent child that can be, well—watch out! He or she may become next new angel. Sappy preachers give this illustration all the time, apparently thinking it gives comfort.

Not surprisingly, the ‘picking flowers’ analogy is nowhere found in the Bible. However, a parallel analogy is found in 2nd Samuel, where it is used to make exactly the opposite point: the flower picker should be executed. The setting is when King David took for himself the attractive wife of one of his subjects and, upon impregnating her, had that subject killed to cover his tracks:

“The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

“David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1-7, NIV)

Now, this analogy appeals to us. This is just. The man is not expected to take comfort that the king stole his wife. No, he deserves execution! So how is it that when we are told God has done the same, we’re expected to feel all warm and fuzzy?

Isn’t this like Abraham Lincoln saying that he was not smart enough to lie? His meaning was that if you lie, you have to adjust every subsequent statement to be consistent with that lie, otherwise you will get caught. Telling the truth presents no such challenge.

The picking flowers analogy is an attempt to cover a lie, and as we have seen, it doesn’t satisfy. The lie is that, when we die, we don’t really die because the soul lives on, going straight to heaven if we’ve been good. Thus, death is a friend. It is a chance for promotion, and we are all happy to see good people promoted. In this context, the Bible’s hope of a resurrection is meaningless. (Acts 24:15) How can someone be resurrected if they never actually died?

Better to tell the truth from the start, and then you don’t have to invent ridiculous stories to cover your tracks. Death is not a friend, it is an enemy. Nor is it God’s purpose for humans; it came upon us due to rebellion. Nor does it bring us into a new state of consciousness; instead we become nonexistent, a state that can be likened to unconsciousness or sleep. Nor does God purpose to leave us in this sad predicament, but he’s taken steps to eliminate death.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned,” says Romans 5:12. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:25) “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten….Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave,  where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10)

“After he had said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead…’” (John 11:11-14)

How different history might have been had Darwin known the truth about death. Not just Darwin, of course, but everyone of his time, as well as before and after. Instead, fed a diet of phony pieties—junk food, really—he and others of inquisitive minds searched elsewhere in an attempt to make sense of life.

The second spiritual event revealing another crisis of faith, is to be seen in a letter of Darwin’s to American colleague Asa Gray. Darwin stated: “…I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world.”

Plainly, this statement concerns, not science, but God. His question was spiritual, or at least philosophical: ‘Why is there so much misery? How does that square with a God who is supposed to be all-loving and all-powerful?’

Bear in mind that, in younger days, Darwin trained to become a clergyman. This is not to say that he was unusually devout. Rather, he was undecided as a youth; he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. Most go through such a phase. Many never emerge. At the time, the clergy represented a respectable calling for educated people who didn’t find a place anywhere else.

Why didn’t he know why God permitted suffering? It’s not as though an answer does not exist. It is outlined in chapter 44. If Charles Darwin had been familiar with the answer, yet rejected it, that would be one thing. But it seems clear that he had no clue. The fault is not his. It is that of the church, which was charged to make certain truths, or teachings, known, but which failed to discharge that commission, choosing paths more self-serving. You might say that Darwin was spiritually starved.

Had he known the Bible’s answer regarding misery and suffering, it may be that he, and other active minds of his day, might have put a different spin on discoveries of rocks, fossils, and finches. It is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are so enthusiastic over Scripture, sometimes to the point of being pests. The Bible’s explanation of the causes of suffering and death is tremendously liberating. It affects powerfully one’s outlook on life. (July 2006)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

00

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’